China, where the coronavirus pandemic started, is now emerging from the crisis and is announcing to the world that they are back — in every sense of the word.
From the South China Sea to Hong Kong, China is not only flexing its military and diplomatic muscle, but it’s also using the pandemic as an opportunity to get away with it while the rest of the world is distracted. With their neighbors preoccupied with saving their citizens, China is definitely not letting the crisis go to waste.
Now, Beijing is making little pretense of its desire to destroy Hong Kong’s “special status” as an autonomous region, independent of China.
When China got control of Hong Kong from Britain, it promised a “one-country, two-system” arrangement and no meddling in Hong Kong’s internal affairs.
But as Benedict Rogers noted in The Post on Monday, it now claims that doesn’t apply to the Chinese government bodies overseeing Hong Kong — effectively negating the whole deal.
As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put it: “Beijing and its representatives in Hong Kong continue to take actions inconsistent with commitments made under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”
Indeed, it’s not just the arrest of the pro-democracy activists during Hong Kong’s lockdown and voluntary freeze on protests. As Reuters reported, “a senior Beijing official called for the local government to introduce national security legislation ‘as soon as possible.'”
The streets of Hong Kong have been quiet for more than a month, so why introduce “national security legislation” now?
Mostly because they can get away with it. There’s wall-to-wall coverage of the pandemic in Western media, so few will care that China is going back on its word and looking to destroy Hong Kong’s independence.
The pandemic is also distracting the West from China’s blatant bullying of Taiwan and its continuing efforts to build a military presence in the South China Sea.
Taiwan finds itself in China’s crosshairs.
The most dramatic actions have been close to Taiwan, the self-ruled island China claims as its own. Beijing has been angered by moves by President Tsai Ing-wen during the outbreak to assert the island’s separate identity from China.
In the latest uptick in tensions, China’s navy this month sailed a battle group, led by the country’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, around Taiwan’s east coast and has mounted regular air force drills near the island.
Lo Chih-cheng, a senior legislator with Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said China was showing that its military power had not been affected by the virus and that things had returned to normal.
“The other aspect is of course to test whether the combat strength of the U.S. military has been reduced due to the impact of the epidemic,” he said.
The U.S. Navy is facing off with the Chinese in the region, sailing through the Taiwan Straits while China conducted military drills off the coast of the island. A Navy spokesman said that there had been interactions with Chinese forces in the South China Sea, but they had been “safe and professional” — but not without some tension, we assume.
We won’t go to war over Hong Kong or perhaps not even over Taiwan. But as tensions rise and the Chinese military continues to gain experience and confidence, some kind of resistance to Chinese expansion by the United States may be inevitable.
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